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Importance of non-formal education

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Abu Sayeed Shakil :
Non-formal education is a flexible type of education, which provides knowledge and skills to a particular group of learners required to perform better in a particular job. Formal education cannot always provide all the necessary knowledge and skills, which have immediate demand in the job market. Formal education is organized to enable the learners to be able to act in a particular situation. In another words, an educational project arranged for a particular group of learner in order to fulfill their special requirements is called non-formal education. Our formal education system does not have much flexibility; it is centrally governed; and it does not have flexibility to practise skills needed to act and react in the society properly. That is why non-formal education is mostly needed. Though non-formal education does not have anything to do with certificates or anything like that, it is very useful for smoothen our everyday life because non-formal education is designed based on the demand of the learners.
In our country, we can see many of our people remain excluded from formal education because of poverty and other reasons. In the school-going age, many children have to work for supporting their family. So they have to remain away from formal education. And after a certain age, they cannot get the primary education even if they want to. That is where non-formal education is unique because non-formal education system does not have any age limit. Any one from any age group can join if they want. It is more like a part-time education system. In formal education system students have to follow the time-table of an institution, but in non-formal education system the institution actually follows the time table of the learners as the learners here have to join the required course after managing other jobs or activities. So when a learner gets free time, they can come for their education. It does not matter if it is at night or any time of the day. Instead of a long term curriculum, it prefers very short term curriculum focusing on the knowledge and skills gaps of the learners. There is no specific target group for non-formal education, it could be younger people or adults.
According to UNESCO (2010), non-formal education helps to ensure equal access to education, eradicates or minimizes illiteracy among women and improve women's access to vocational training, science, technology and continuing education. Examples of non-formal education include swimming sessions for children, life skills learning, community-based sports programs, and some programs developed by organizations such as the Boys scouts, community or non-credit adult education courses, sports or fitness programs and professional development programs. In our villages, we sometimes see that some organizations are spreading awareness among the village people about many kind of common things such as, HIV virus, pregnancy, cholera etc. It is also an example of non-formal education. Computer training, English language training, outsourcing training are the some of the popular areas of non-formal education of current time.
Nowadays there is a lot of jobs that require computer operating skill. Department of Youth Development recently offers free computer training course in all 64 districts. People living in the rural areas, are getting computer training by Youth Training Academy. There are also some other courses offered by the Youth Training Academy such as job skills, fisheries, agricultural training. That non-formal education or training is helping our youth to stand on their own feet.
Our Government had taken many steps to improve non-formal education in the country. With the establishment of the Directorate of Non-formal Education (DNFE) in 1995, the Government of Bangladesh initially commissioned four large scale projects to offer literacy to children, adolescents and adults through developing partnership with NGOs. In 1991, through the General Education Project, the Govt. of Bangladesh supported 17 NGOs to offer NFE programs. In 1992, the Govt. of Bangladesh decided to attach more emphasis on NFE and Mass Education, which led to the establishment of the Directorate of Non-Formal Education (DNFE). So far as I know, that directorate of non-formal education is not fully functional at present. However, some organizations are doing a lot to spread the non-formal education and contributing to the development of the country.
 In our country there are over 700 NGOs working to provide non-formal education to different groups of people. The leader among the NGO-run NFE (Non-Formal Education) program in Bangladesh is BRAC (Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, recently renamed as Building Resources Across Communities). BRAC introduced a Non-Formal Primary Education (NFPE) model that has been replicated by many other NGOs in Bangladesh. This primary education model has brought a lot of success in primary level education.
As a result of wide-spread non-formal education, we will have many well-trained and skillful people who will be capable of performing various kinds of work. And it will have a huge impact on our economic growth.
 The youth will be self-reliant and as a result our economy will grow faster. Some of our skillful people will get some job in foreign countries, and our country will get a huge amount of remittance. If we can have a good number of free-launchers, actually possible to have, it could be a big source of remittance for our country.
So our government should attach more importance to this sector because it could be very valuable for the development of the country and it also will help to fill-up the gaps of formal education system. In order to spread the non-formal education throughout the whole country, we have to provide free text books, build temporary structures for teaching and training, train teachers to work there, provide scholarships to learners to encourage learners in good numbers. If non-formal education implemented properly, it will help to reach the development targets of 2030.

(The writer is a 1st year student studying Bachelor of Education at Government Teachers' Training College, Dhaka)

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